This is a new series that I will put out each Wednesday until the the one and only roster cut this year, on Sunday September 3rd at 4pm. It attempts to highlight a player that I think may have some trouble making the 53-man roster.
I was as excited as anybody when I learned that Bill Belichick had pulled another draft day rabbit out of his cutoff hoodie. In early March we fleeced the Carolina Panthers, getting the player they selected with the 28th pick in the second round of the 2014 draft: Kony Ealy. Visions of his Super Bowl dominance flashed like a white light before my eyes. Three sacks, an interception, and a forced fumble in only 23 snaps! All at once I could see everything he had accomplished and all the success he would bring to us. I felt like Bran Stark. Apparently, the Panthers found him inconsistent and gave him up, costing us only an 8 spot drop in the 2017 draft. A classic Belichick reclamation project. Ealy obviously has talent and could be a young, up-and-coming player in a contract year. He seemed like a lock to make the roster and more importantly, make significant contributions.
Now that camp is well under way, I'm not so sure. He was weirdly held out of the first day of training camp on a coach's decision, which no one would talk about. Lately he's taking most of his reps with the 2s. There is a steep learning curve at his position because the Patriots ask their defensive ends to do so much more than most teams. In Carolina, Ealy was a classic 'pin the ears back' type of pass rusher. His responsibilities in New England will require him to set the edge, drop into coverage, and win 1-on-1 battles with a secondary move. Certainly not an impossible task, but we've seen a lot of Rufus Johnson and Michael Buchanan type guys come through here and fail. Not to mention, all reports out of Foxborough are saying that 4th rounder Deatrich Wise and undrafted rookie Adam Butler are looking better and better with each rep. The fastest way to find yourself off of a Belichick team? Only do one thing well.
Don't get me wrong, I'm hoping Kony is able to contribute at DE and become a household name. Sometimes it's a motivation issue. The Panthers were out of it last year, and no one coaches up the 'something to prove' card better than Bill. I saw him Jedi mind trick a 32 year old Andre Carter into a 10 sack machine. Imagine what he can do if he lights a fire under Ealy's admittedly large but agile butt? He still probably has a decent shot because of the Rob Ninkovich retirement, and we are thin at the position. I can't stop wondering though, maybe there was a reason Carolina dumped him in the first place.